It’s a good day in the Peace Corps today-approx 55 new Volunteers are moving into their own homes today. Hamdullah!
It also turned out to be a great morning, despite my desire to pull the covers back over my head as I could hear the rain and wind blowing outside. But it had to be done-had to brave the cold, as I made a commitment to meet Miriam at 9am at the Belladya (kinda like a regional governor’s ofc)…but let me back up…..
Yesterday we finished at the coop early and as I was walking home w/Fatima, she asked if it might be possible for Miriam to borrow my laptop to use w/a projector for a meeting. OK, no problem. Meet at Miriam’s office at 3. OK. While we wait for Miriam, Fatima and Malco are talking and Malco (who speaks a little English) tells me that they’re discussing a proposal to form an umbrella organization in REK to represent all the 34 organizations in town. Interesting. We meet w/Miriam, and after working w/the computer, she asks if I can be at the Belladya office at 9am this morning, as she wants to use my computer for the meeting of the associations. Cool-that means I get to sit in on the meeting. And, not only is Miriam very nice, but she’s the only lawyer in town and very well connected (and turns out she's one of the instigators of this proposal).
So we meet at 9. Belladya is closed so we go to the café to stay out of the rain and wait for the guy to come w/a key. This is a different café than I go to, but a good one to know, as the power players (men) in town frequent this café. We make our way over to the Belladya ofc, and turns out they don’t need my computer-Miriam has printed out copies of the proposal, but I’m invited to sit in on the meeting. Great! And it is a very interesting 4 hours! The entire meeting is in Darija, yet I understand the rationale behind the formation of this umbrella organization proposal-band together for Regional and National requests, bargaining power, and help outside/gov’t organizations know who to go to w/i REK for support and community decisions. I also get to observe the dynamics of the discussion, with about 25 men (incl the Regional governor) and 4 women participating-and representing their respective associations and coops. Talk about getting a peek from inside the power of a town! I watched as calls were placed, a couple people even left briefly, to pull other coop/assn presidents out of bed/home and into the meeting. Watch who talked a lot, who got the attention and respect of others, etc. They ended up voting in favor of forming the new association. Then they elected 9 of those present to form the new association board. Three of the 4 women present were elected to the board! This is an indicator that while my town is small, it’s progressive for a male-dominated Islamic country. One of the women is Fatima from the coop, another is also Fatima-the PC trainer who I’ve been working with, and Miriam was the 3rd. Wahoo!
It also turns out that the 4th woman at the meeting is President of the Women’s Assn. (didn’t know there was one). I had a chance to talk to her about maybe doing something for International Women’s Day. It’s coming up on March 8th, and I’m going to a PC training session in Midelt in 2 weeks to find out more about projects that have been successful for IWD in the past. I’ve broached the subject now w/both Fatimas, Miriam and now Zahra, and they’re all in support of starting w/something small this year, as they’ve not done anything in town in the past. Inshallah we’ll be able to put something together for this year, despite the tight timeframe.
How lucky am I to have had a chance to sit in on this meeting and get to know all of these people? It certainly gave me a great intro into who to work with in the future as I try to get things done.